Brandon Marshall #19 of the Miami Dolphins runs after a catch during a game against the New York Jets at Sun Life Stadium on January 1, 2012 in Miami Gardens, Florida.
(December 31, 2011 – Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images North America)
CHICAGO (AP) — Finally, the Chicago Bears can stop looking for a top receiver.
They reeled one in Tuesday, landing three-time Pro Bowler Brandon Marshall in a trade with the Miami Dolphins that addressed their biggest need.
There was widespread speculation the Bears would go after a high-profile free-agent receiver such as Vincent Jackson, but they filled their biggest hole with a blockbuster deal instead, sending two third-round draft picks to Miami.
The trade was first reported by Fox Sports.
It’s the first big move under new general manager Phil Emery, who replaced the fired Jerry Angelo, and it gives Jay Cutler the go-to receiver he’s been seeking since he arrived from the Broncos in a trade three years ago.
Even better, it reunites him with one of his top targets in Denver.
Marshall made the Pro Bowl for the third time last year, when he had 81 catches for 1,214 yards and six scores. But he also dropped at least four potential touchdown catches and failed to end his career-long playoff drought.
The Dolphins had a losing record in each of his two seasons with them, and coach Tony Sparano was fired in December.
Last July, Marshall disclosed he was diagnosed earlier in the year with borderline personality disorder, which stems from such things as a negative self-image and a fear of failure. Then at midseason he said efforts to keep his emotions on an even keel have hurt his play, and before a Monday night game he claimed he goal was to get ejected before halftime.
Marshall sparred with quarterback Chad Henne during his first season with the Dolphins, but he seemed popular in the locker room last year. Dolphins players reacting on Twitter said they were sorry to hear the news of the trade, while Bears players were overjoyed.
“Hate to see my boy B Marshall go,” running back Reggie Bush tweeted. “That’s the league for you, one day your hear next day your gone. Chicago is getting one hell of a player!”
“Brandon Marshall out of Miami?” center Mike Pouncey tweeted. “Tell me this ain’t true…”
Bears linebacker Lance Briggs called it “a great day” on Twitter, with Chicago agreeing to a two-year deal to retain cornerback Tim Jennings and trading for Marshall.
And Devin Hester Tweeted: “I’m so happy we got another Florida boy on the team!”
In Miami, the deal stirred speculation the Dolphins parted with Marshall to clear cap space and roster room for former Colts receiver Reggie Wayne, which might help them lure Peyton Manning to Miami.
In Chicago, it led to a big sigh of relief.
For years, they’ve lacked a go-to receiver, and now, they have one.
They tried to make their record-setting return specialist Hester their top threat. They brought in Roy Williams last year, hoping he could rediscover some of the form that made him a Pro Bowler in Mike Martz’s system in Detroit after a disappointing run in Dallas, but that didn’t happen.
Throw in the uncertainty surrounding Johnny Knox after his season-ending back injury and the need was glaring – not that it was the only hole.
The Bears were looking for another pass-rushing defensive end to go with Pro Bowler Julius Peppers. There are issues on the offensive line and in the secondary, and they could use a backup quarterback, too.
The lack of depth was a big reason why they fell apart after a 7-3 start, dropping five straight before winning the final game and missing the playoffs after making the NFC title game the previous year.
The freefall started after Cutler broke his right thumb late in a win over San Diego on Nov. 20 and got another push when Matt Forte sprained a ligament in his right knee against Kansas City on Dec. 4, leaving the offense without its two best players.
The collapse led to Angelo’s dismissal and the Bears parting with Martz as their offensive coordinator.
They promoted offensive line coach Mike Tice to replace him and hired Jeremy Bates as quarterbacks coach, reuniting him with Cutler.
Now, Marshall’s in the mix, too.
“Jay Cutler and Jeremy Bates makes it great,” Marshall’s agent, Kennard McGuire wrote in a text message.
When Marshall played against the Bears in 2010, he drew a penalty for taunting by flipping the ball at Cutler, standing in front of the bench.
“We’re good friends,” Marshall said at the time. “I was just messing with him.”
Marshall wore out his welcome in Denver, partly because of a long legal record. He was involved in a New Year’s Eve fight that led to the 2007 drive-by slaying of Broncos teammate Darrent Williams.
Last year Marshall’s wife was arrested after he was stabbed in the abdomen with a kitchen knife during a domestic dispute. Charges were later dropped.
The Dolphins acquired Marshall from Denver in 2010 for a pair of second-round draft picks.
Vincent Jackson #83 of the San Diego Chargers turns up field after his catch against the Denver Broncos at Qualcomm Stadium on November 27, 2011 in San Diego, California. The Broncos went on to win 16-13.
(November 26, 2011 – Photo by Harry How/Getty Images North America)
Bucs sign WR Jackson for 5 years
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Free agent wide receiver Vincent Jackson signed a five-year, $55.55 million contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, immediately becoming the team’s most dangerous receiver.
Jackson was one of the top wideouts available in free agency once San Diego decided not to give him the franchise tag. It didn’t take him long to hook up with Tampa Bay and quarterback Josh Freeman, in whose honor Jackson got all those 5s in the deal; Freeman wears uniform No. 5.
The contract, negotiated by Schwartz and Feinsod Agency, will pay Jackson $13 million in each of his first two years, then $10 million for the third year.
Jackson will provide a deep threat for Freeman, whose other receivers, Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn, are more short-range targets.
San Diego gave Jackson the franchise tag in 2011 and he signed for nearly $11 million. He missed most of the previous season in a salary dispute.
During the lockout, Jackson was one of 10 named plaintiffs in the Brady V. NFL antitrust suit filed against club owners.
Then Jackson had his third 1,000-yard receiving season in 2011 on his way to his second Pro Bowl. He made 60 receptions for 1,106 yards and nine touchdowns, and Jackson’s yards per catch average of 18.4 was sixth in the league.
The 29-year-old Jackson was a second-round pick (61st overall) by the Chargers in 2005.
(L-R) David Cutcliffe, head football coach of the Duke Blue Devils sits beside Peyton Manning during the Duke Blue Devils versus the North Carolina Tar Heels game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on March 3, 2012 in Durham, North Carolina.
(March 2, 2012 – Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images North America)
Titans owner Adams says team to meet with Manning on Wednesday
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans will be meeting with Peyton Manning on Wednesday, according to owner Bud Adams.
Adams told WSMV-TV the Titans’ contingent will fly out of Nashville on Wednesday and spend the day with Manning, a meeting delayed apparently by trouble getting a co-pilot for his private plane. Adams told the TV station he thinks Manning really is interested in the Titans’ offer, and he expects a quick decision from the four-time MVP.
“I think he’s … wanting to sign up with somebody pretty quickly,” Adams said by telephone from his Houston home.
Where the meeting will take place remains a secret, though a private plane with a Titans’ emblem on the tail arrived in Nashville on Tuesday afternoon with a flight plan projecting the plane to arrive in Raleigh-Durham a couple hours later. The plane was towed behind a hangar with the flight plan scrapped for the night.
That left coach Mike Munchak busy with other non-Manning business. Munchak left shortly before 1 p.m. ET and returned about 45 minutes later with free agent guard Steve Hutchinson. Munchak left again a couple of hours later and returned with an unidentified passenger, but not Manning in a day in Nashville with lots of waiting and watching.
It’s been that way since Adams made it known he wants Manning and will do whatever it takes to sign the quarterback. The anticipation has mounted since the former Indianapolis and University of Tennessee quarterback agreed to meet with the Titans – though when and where has been a closely guarded secret.
Manning’s day book has reportedly included meetings with the Denver Broncos, Arizona Cardinals and Miami Dolphins. The Titans are his latest suitor.
But there was other free agent business to deal with besides the Manning watch.
Munchak met with Hutchinson, who played with Minnesota last year. The five-time first-team All-Pro guard could boost the offense line for the Titans. Tennessee ranked 31st in rushing last year averaging 89.9 yards per game. Chris Johnson had a career-low 1,047 yards.
Munchak picked Hutchinson up at the airport with some personal service. The coach drove past reporters hoping for an update as Munchak pulled back into the parking lot.
Tennessee also made a few other moves. The Titans signed safety Jordan Babineaux and linebacker Patrick Bailey to multi-year contracts before free agency opened. Re-signing Babineaux means Tennessee returns both their starting safeties with the franchise tag slapped on Michael Griffin.
Guard Fernando Velasco and defensive end Malcolm Sheppard signed deals as exclusive rights free agents.
With most of the non-Manning business apparently completed, Munchak rolled out of the Titans facility at 7:50 p.m. wearing a sport coat and waved to reporters – but again, not stopping to talk.
Reporters staked out across the street from the Titans’ facility all day weren’t there for Hutchinson or any other free agent, and everyone knew it. People driving by slowed down and asked for updates on Manning.
One jogger asked, “They signing Peyton?” as he ran past.
That’s what everyone wants to know, and nobody with the Titans is talking.
Manning certainly has plenty of connections to Tennessee, the state where he starred at the University of Tennessee, and where his name remains a popular choice for children. His wife is from Memphis, and Manning already knows the Titans’ facility a bit, having practiced against Tennessee a few years ago when the Colts came to town for some joint practices.
Munchak also was a teammate of Archie Manning in 1982 and briefly in 1983 with the then-Houston Oilers. Munchak just hired Dennis Polian – son of former Colts general manager Bill Polian – as his assistant.
The biggest key is Adams, the 89-year-old billionaire who wants back in the playoffs. His Titans have been only twice since 2004 with both trips in 2007 and 2008 lasting only one game each. When he wants a quarterback, he gets him whether it was having his Titans draft Vince Young in 2006 or signing Warren Moon away from the CFL.
“I want Manning,” Adams told The Tennessean. “I’d love to see him in Titan blue after watching him so many years with the Colts. … I want him. I am ready to do what it takes to get him aboard, and I think he’d be the guy to get us into the playoffs.”
The Titans already have veteran Matt Hasselbeck, signed to a three-year contract last July, and Jake Locker picked with the No. 8 overall selection in the 2011 draft. But Hasselbeck is due $5.5 million in salary this year after getting a chunk of his deal last season.